Science shines light on an unlikely ally against addiction

Since we’re talking about new research on CBD’s benefits this month, let’s dive right into another recent finding—and this one may come as a surprise to people who are still inclined to think of cannabis as a controlled substance. But the science here is crystal clear: CBD could be the key to conquering addiction (as well as anxiety, which often goes hand-in-hand).

These benefits could be game-changing, given the dangers of both our current crop of anti-anxiety meds and our ongoing struggle with opioid dependency.

CBD takes the edge off of social anxiety  

CBD may not have psychoactive effects like its counterpart THC—but clinical studies show it has a potent positive effect on serotonin receptors in the brain. And without the mood swings, insomnia, and sexual dysfunction that so often accompany drug treatment for depression and anxiety.

Preliminary research on patients with social anxiety showed that 400 mg of CBD significantly lowered levels of subjective anxiety compared to a placebo. Brain imaging backed this benefit up, with scans revealing changes in activity and blood flow in areas of the brain associated with anxious feelings.1

Another similar study showed equally impressive results. Researchers gave 24 patients with social anxiety 600 mg of CBD or a placebo 90 minutes before a simulated public speaking test. And results showed that pretreatment with CBD significantly reduced anxiety, cognitive impairment, discomfort, and alertness levels.2

Over the last decade, this field of research has only picked up more steam, with one 2015 review stating that “existing preclinical evidence strongly supports CBD as a treatment for generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive–compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.”3

Nevertheless, there’s still a lot we don’t know—and a lot of clinical research is still underway. Including one trial to evaluate whether CBD can help patients battling the tragically common combination of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alcoholism.

This study has recruited 50 subjects, who are taking either 400 mg of pharmaceutical-grade CBD or a placebo, to see if treatment with CBD is able to reduce PTSD symptoms and alcoholic intake. It’s projected to wrap at the end of the summer—so you can bet I’ll keep you updated on the results right here, or in my free e-letter, Reality Health Check.

But assuming the outcome lives up to expectations, it won’t be the first study to show that CBD could have a role in attenuating addiction. Because another study published just this past spring has delivered some of the most compelling evidence yet…

A non-addictive way to ward off relapse

This latest study focused specifically on “cue-induced” cravings and anxiety—two key addiction features that sabotage attempts to stop using, and pave the path to relapse after recovery.

Researchers recruited nearly 42 heroin users in recovery—the majority of whom had used opioids within the last month, but none of whom showed signs of acute withdrawal when the study started.

Subjects weren’t receiving any standard medications for managing opioid use. They also abstained from using drugs, with the sole exception of nicotine, during the study. Researchers randomly assigned them to one of three groups:

  • An 800 mg of CBD daily group
  • A 400 mg of CBD daily group
  • A placebo group

They followed subjects for two weeks. And after their final dose, researchers exposed subjects to a variety of cues—relaxing scenes as well as drug-related videos designed to trigger cravings.

Researchers measured the subjects’ responses to these cues—including opioid cravings, anxiety, and physical stress responses (like elevations in heart rate and cortisol).

Ultimately, they found that even a full week after their last dose of CBD, subjects treated with either 400 mg or 800 mg experienced lower levels of cravings and anxiety than their untreated peers. And their physical stress responses were lower as well.4

These study results appeared in the American Journal of Psychiatry in May. And needless to say, they could represent a major breakthrough in the opioid crisis—especially for users who also suffer from chronic pain (a condition that I discussed in the July issue of Logical Health Alternatives).


  1. Crippa JA, et al. “Neural basis of anxiolytic effects of cannabidiol (CBD) in generalized social anxiety disorder: a preliminary report.” J Psychopharmacol. 2011 Jan;25(1):121-30.
  2. Bergamaschi MM, et al. “Cannabidiol reduces the anxiety induced by simulated public speaking in treatment-naïve social phobia patients.” Neuropsychopharmacology. 2011 May;36(6):1219-26.
  3. Blessing EM, et al. “Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders.” Neurotherapeutics. 2015 Oct;12(4):825-36.
  4. Hurd YL, et al. “Cannabidiol for the Reduction of Cue-Induced Craving and Anxiety in Drug-Abstinent Individuals With Heroin Use Disorder: A Double-Blind Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial.” Am J Psychiatry. 2019 May 21:appiajp201918101191.